Maps of the Disney Parks – Finding Your Way Through History (book review)

What’s the first thing you do when you walk into a Disney theme park? Why get a map of course! Right when you walk through the turnstiles, there in front of you is both a map and a show guide for the day’s events.  Maps have always been a fun, easy way to identify where you are and where you want to go and if you’ve been to a Disney theme park over the years, you know they change quite rapidly.  Now, there is a book that collects the history of Disney maps all in one place and quite appropriately it’s called Maps of the Disney Parks.

Cover artwork of Maps of the Disney Parks and yes, it opens up in the middle like you were unfolding a map
Cover artwork of Maps of the Disney Parks and yes, it opens up in the middle like you were unfolding a map

Title: Maps of the Disney Parks
Author: Kevin and Susan Neary / Vanessa Hunt
Cost: $40.00
Age: All ages (probably best suited for adults – or any fan of maps!)
Publisher: Disney Editions
Genre: Non-fiction, history

In all honesty, there might not ever have been a Disney theme park anywhere in the world if it wasn’t for that very first and most famous of maps – Herb Ryman’s original illustration of Disneyland.  Done in September of 1953, this illustration of the park was the first of its kind.  Walt and Roy had it created to help convince the people they were hoping would help finance the park to see what they had envisioned in their minds.  Walt had said, “Those businessmen don’t listen to talk; you’ve got to show them what you’re going to do (p.12).”  And they did.  Working furiously over a two-day time span with Walt at his side, Herb created the masterpiece vision for Walt’s dream.

Most people have seen the beautiful drawings of Herb Ryman's original artwork, but did you know it was then copied by photostat and colored by Dick Irvine and Marc Davis.
Most people have seen the beautiful drawings of Herb Ryman’s original artwork, but did you know it was then copied by photostat and colored by Dick Irvine and Marc Davis.

This book is a celebration of the many different maps that have shaped theme parks around the world.  There is even a map of the original Mickey Mouse Park Walt originally thought of building in an eight-acre lot across from the studios.  Concept art is also richly spread throughout the book.  Some of the original layouts for Disneyland and Walt Disney World along with ideas for Tokyo DisneySea in Japan, EuroDisneyland (now Disneyland Paris), the areas of Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch in Hong Kong, and Shanghai Disneyland are all included.

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What this book does not include is a collection of theme park guidemaps throughout the years.  Interestingly, even though there are many representations of brochure maps, maps on walls throughout the parks (like Sindbad’s Storybook Adventures and Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo Disneyland), and maps for attractions like Tom Sawyer’s Island, the guidemaps are strangely missing.  Instead the curator Vanessa Hunt focused on the big “fun maps” you can buy which show extraordinary detail of the attractions and their location.  In addition to showing an overview of the map, most also have a page dedicated to a 100% full size section of it so you can see the detail for yourself.

If you love the Disney theme parks and are fascinated by maps, concept art, and what might have been, this is a great book for you.  You’ll spend hours exploring the images, the detail, and every last hint at what was in the minds of Walt and the Imagineers.  To top it off, it has a funky cover that opens in the middle (I assume as if you were opening a map).  A great book for any Disney fan!

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